We paid off our last car loan!!!

I remember the last time my car died and left me stranded. I was on my way to work and about to pass through the busiest intersection on my commute. Multiple lanes of traffic were trying to merge onto the freeway, and the lights were short. People frequently ran through them without stopping. I eased my car into the right turn lane and yielded to oncoming traffic. While I was watching for a break in the line of cars, my car just died. I tried to restart it and nothing happened. I tried again and nothing. Again and again. The car wouldn’t start, and I couldn’t move. I sat there in that lane with the cars lining up behind me and swore very creative swears. My mother would be ashamed.

I flicked on my hazards and stuck my arm out to wave cars around me. There was plenty of room to go around, but people weren’t paying attention. The honking started and eventually the smart ones realized that I probably wasn’t going to move. I called my office, my husband, and my mechanic. Unfortunately, my mechanic greeted me by my first name because our bleeping car forced me to see a lot of him. In the 30 minutes I was stranded, hundreds of cars passed me. One woman stopped and asked if I was ok. Bless you, ma’am. A man in the large pickup took offence to my stalled-out vehicle, rolled up beside me, and screamed unintelligible profanity at me. To whoever you are… you, sir, are an asshole. Finally, the tow truck arrived, and a nice man loaded up my car. He brought his dog with him. Dogs are cooler than people some days. I sat in the cab of his tow truck until my husband came to pick me up. Fortunately, Mr. Cents wasn’t far away.

My relationship with motor vehicles hasn’t always been a pleasant one. We’ve never been in a bad accident or anything (knock on wood), but, for some reason, we seem to have particularly bad luck with cars. Our used cars seem to die quickly. We’ve been the victim of multiple break-ins, mild fender-benders, and random hit and runs while our car sat a parking lot. Our cars seem to attract rocks and shopping carts. We manage to park next to careless door openers. Honestly, this probably isn’t bad luck, but more the result of living in major metro-regions full of idiots.

The incident in paragraph one was the first time we tried to live without a car payment. It lasted 6 weeks. My husband’s vehicle was paid off, but we knew it wouldn’t last for more than a couple of years. We needed to start saving! So, we bought a used sports car from a coworker we didn’t know very well. It was made by a well known manufacturer and had very low mileage. And it was CHEAP! We could pay for it with cash and not have a car payment.  My friends, WE CHOSE POORLY! We thought we did our due diligence by checking its history, and taking it to a trusted mechanic for inspection. It was not enough. Said-vehicle spend 3 of those 6 weeks in the shop, baffling our usually awesome mechanic. In addition to leaving me stranded, it also leaked gasoline for a while. Seals and hoses rotten out. Multiple parts needed to be replaced. There were thousands of dollars worth of repairs.

I hated that evil, broken sports car with a fiery passion. Once a vehicle dies on me, I never trust it again. We were TIRED of repairing used cars that broke down. Even worse, we have almost always lived in major metropolitan areas where you risk your life pulling off on the side of the road.

We decided to trade the devil car in at a considerable loss for a brand new car. Financially, not a smart move because the car depreciated like crazy. However, I feel safe driving it! It’s never broken down (knock on wood). It has amazing gas mileage and is fun to drive. I love it. Even though it SUCKS buying a new car, I know its history, and I know the maintenance was kept up to date.

This 4th of July marks a day in history for the Cents family (a happy accident that we did this on the 4th). After a failed first attempt at car-loan freedom, Mr. Cents and I are the proud official owners of two gloriously paid-off vehicles. We have no car payments! I LIKE this feeling! Even better, both of our cars still have plenty of life left in them and are in good working condition (knock on wood 2x).

So far, we’ve hit two major financial goals for 2017:

  1. Pay off our smaller debts -CHECK! We paid off our cell phones and our water softener.
  2. Pay off our last car loan – CHECK!
  3. Start saving up to pay off our student loans. – A work in progress. Sallie Mae, we are going to get you out of our lives.

All in all, it was truly a great 4th of July weekend. My parents and sisters came to visit us which was awesome. We chilled at the house, ate too much food, went to see Wonder Woman (loved it!!!!), etc. My two-year-old nephew terrorized the dog and laughed hysterically at EVERYTHING. I had no idea throwing stuff and catching the dog could be so entertaining. He also figured out how to delete apps off my sister’s phone and take hundreds of selfies (yes, hundreds!!). Funny to me…not to my sister.

How was your 4th of July?

Money lessons I learned from my parents

Yesterday, my house was a complete and utter mess. The dishes had piled up, and the kitchen counters were cluttered with spices and groceries. The recycling was overflowing. UGH! Both Mr. Cents and I had several busy weeks at work, and the state of our house certainly reflected it. I had to get started on this mess. I scrubbed, dusted, sorted, tossed, vacuumed, and finally put things away. The house is starting to look like adults live here now.

Things my parents taught me about saving money and getting out of debt
Things my parents taught me about money that I wish I had paid attention to earlier.

My whole family will be here for the 4th of July which prompted my cleaning-spree.  Yesterday morning, my father called me to hash out a plan for this weekend’s visit. After talking logistics, I asked him about his newly found freedom from working. My father recently retired from the workforce after a decades as an engineer. He said he was enjoying staying at home and didn’t miss it. He talked about retirement savings, throwing around Warren Buffett quotes, and told me to make sure to use index funds! None of those fancy actively invested funds with expensive fees. Nope, those are just a waste of money!

Things my parents taught me about saving money and getting out of debt.
My dad would probably not be this coordinated.

It always amuses me that my dad likes to talk about saving for retirement. My parents never really talked about money when I was a kid. It was considered impolite to discuss things like salaries and how much debt you had. I remember the first time my dad told me how much he made (I didn’t ask him to!). We were discussing how his company recruited engineers and the salary ranges from starting to senior engineers. He visibly squirmed in his seat, very reluctantly told me his salary, and then asked me not to repeat it to anyone. My mother doesn’t talk about her salary either.

While neither of my parents like to discuss their income, they did have good spending/saving habits that I noticed even at a young age. My father always attacked debt with a vengeance. He hated debt and always told us to stay away from it. My parents paid off all of our family cars quickly, and paid off the house early. They saved money for when they needed it. When emergencies came up, we had the money to cover it.

Things my parents taught me about saving money and getting out of debt.
I SWEAR my dad’s cooking never looked this good. I would totally eat all of this.

My mother cooked at home, and we rarely ate out minus the occasional fast food meal while running errands. When my mom had to go out of town, my dad would “cook” dinner. His meals usually contained multiple varieties of beans or, his specialty, kielbasa sausage with fried peppers and onions. My friends, his food was….not good….at least not to little kids. My sisters and I would eye the kitchen warily, and when we realized he was making dinner, we usually asked (begged) to go to Grandma’s house. She would make us pizza if we asked, and, if we were good, grandpa made us milk shakes. Plus grandma had cable tv which meant cartoons! Another luxury my parents refused to get.

Looking back on it now, I realize how lucky I am. I had parents who figured out how to spend and save their money wisely. We always had everything we needed. I wish I had paid closer attention to how my parents used their money and applied their principles to my own finances earlier. I left college with lots of student loan debt. I’ve always had a car payment. We eat out way more than we should. Usually because we get busy at work and everything else kinda gets neglected (see first paragraph).

Things my parents taught me about saving money and getting out of debt.
I hope I’m as smart with my money as my parents are.

To be fair, Mr. Cents and I made some mistakes, but are working to rectify them. It’s working slowly but surely. Most recently, we paid off our water softener which was NOT cheap. We pay extra towards our mortgage and car payment every month. We could actually pay off my car right now but decided to wait until we recover from the water softener. We’ve made a pointed effort to reduce the number of times we go out to eat and cook more at home. Ironically, we actually fried up some German sausages this week so maybe my dad’s food wasn’t as terrible as I remember.

I’m proud of what my parents accomplished. I have two wonderful examples of financial savviness in my life. Not everyone has this, and I’m grateful. I’m also happy that my father is enjoying a well-earned retirement, and I’m sure my mom will join him soon. Hopefully the Cents family will crush this whole retirement thing as well as my dad has.

Do you have someone in your life that crushed it financially?

Top 4 resources for new bloggers

Starting a blog can be an exciting, but challenging endeavor. You have creative ideas that you want to share with others, but learning how to implement those ideas onto a blog can be difficult. I am experiencing this personally and would like to share some of the best resources I’ve come across since I started blogging a few months ago.

Why I started a blog:

A few months ago, I decided to start a personal finance blog that would document our journey to get out of debt and achieve financial freedom. I also wanted to share some of the tools and techniques I use to save money on purchases like groceries, clothes, and vacations. All of the things I write about I have tried and have been mostly successful (with the exception of this vacation fail).

Find out where to get free pictures for your blog and a free course on how to make pinterest pins. Udemy courses on how to write and how to use social media to get traffic to your blog.
Try these cheap or free resources for new bloggers. Learn how to make pinterest pins, effective writing, free picture resources, and more!

I am not an expert on blogging. I have never worked on a webpage before, and, minus daily email, I’ve never written about anything that wasn’t technical (aka boring facts and figures). All of this has been a learning curve for me. To be completely fair, I really like learning about this stuff! Not just about blogging, but how websites work or how to engage via social media.

Resources I’ve found both helpful and educational:

There is plenty of informative, free/cheap education out there that can cut through some of the mystery behind starting a blog. As a new blogger, it is easy to get overwhelmed with all of the choices. While I am still learning, I found these resources to be very helpful.

Create bright, colorful Pinterest Pins:

I had no idea that pinterest could be so important to a blog. I thought it was just an app that you use to find delicious recipes. Not so! Pinterest can be a very good source of traffic to your blog so don’t ignore it. One of the resources I used to get started in Pinterest is Kristen Larson’s blog, Believe in a Budget. She is a fantastic example of how to succeed in blogging. Her side business of becoming a Pinterest expert has paid off well, and she shares some of her knowledge in this free Pinterest Presence Mini Course. I took it a couple of weeks ago, and was surprised at how educational it was. She shows you how to create eye-catching pins from stock photos. My first few attempts weren’t great but I’m getting better with practice (at least, I think)!

Learn how to leverage social media and track metrics on your blog:

I check Udemy periodically for courses that are relevant for blogging. There are a lot of them out there so I try to stick with ones that have high ratings. During one of their recent sales, I stumbled across this course, “Build a Successful Blog: Traffic and Monetization Level 2”. The instructor is a full-time Amazon seller who has successfully implemented blogs, websites and other side hustles. She covers the basics on leveraging social media to drive traffic to your blog and how to set up tools to keep track of your website’s metrics. I learned how to setup google analytics and about other tools and websites you can use to grow your following. Some of these tools I’d never heard of before. Udemy has this course on sale for $10. Totally worth it for beginners. (Note: If it’s not on sale when you read this, watch it for a while. Udemy has sales at least a few of times a year.)

Find out where to get free pictures for your blog and a free course on how to make pinterest pins. Udemy courses on how to write and how to use social media to get traffic to your blog.
Try these cheap or free resources for new bloggers. Learn how to make pinterest pins, effective writing, free picture resources, and more!

Learn how to write:

As I said earlier, I’m not a writer by trade. Engineering school does not prepare geeks like myself with the skills to communicate well. With the exception of a few British Lit classes, all of my writing was focused on conveying technical information.

Here is another Udemy course that I bought for $10 after seeing a list on Business Insider (an article I tweeted). Full disclosure, I haven’t actually finished this course yet, but I continually find myself pausing and thinking about what the instructor is saying. That is a good sign! If you need a quick education on how to thoughtfully convey your ideas through writing, check out this Udemy course, “Ninja Writing: The Four Levels Of Writing Mastery”. So far, it has helped me organize my thoughts into less of a jumbled mess.

Use Free Stock Pictures:

Looking at a blog post with tons of text and no pictures is boring. Adding images to your posts can break up long, boring paragraphs and add depth to your posts. Not using images is a mistake I made when I started and one I am trying to correct. However, do not use other people’s photos without permission! That is a quick and easy way to get yourself into trouble. Instead, use free stock photos out there like Pexels. They offer free stock photos that you can copy and manipulate without a license or sourcing. They work pretty nicely with Believe in a Budget’s free pinterest course.

Free resources like pictures for your blog
Get pictures like this from Pexels
Free resources like pictures for your blog
Even more pictures from pexels

Starting a blog can be so much fun, and I hope these 4 resources are as helpful for you as they were for me! There are a lot of other free/cheap resources out there that I might not have heard about so please leave a comment if you have one in mind. Thanks for stopping by and happy blogging!